Welcome to the project blog! Here you will find short articles created by members of the project team detailing new research, elements of the technical development process and our participation at conferences and events.
2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the completion of Sir Charles Barry's Palace of Westminster. To mark the occasion, we consider the impact the old House of Commons had on its successors after 1834.
This post introduces the Exchequer to explain what it was, why it matters and its place in the history of St Stephen's. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the cloister, bell tower and vicars' houses of the former College were in the possession of the Auditor and Tellers of the Exchequer of Receipt. These officials remodelled the site to form townhouses and office space for themselves and their families right at the heart of the Palace of Westminster. . This post argues that the tenancy of Exchequer officers at St Stephen's offers means to take a broader view of institutional history to situate the Exchequer of Receipt in government and identify the significance of St Stephen's as administrative and political space.
This is the first in a new series of posts on the latest research into St Stephen's. The original AHRC-funded project, which ran from 2013 to 2017, focused on researching St Stephen's Chapel itself. The success of this project suggested many avenues for further research, which resulted in the follow-on AHRC project 'Listening to the Commons', which ran from February 2017 to July 2018. However, there was still a clear need to research the re-use of the other collegiate buildings after the dissolution of St. Stephen's College. This inspired two new PhD projects at the University of York, Kirsty Wright in the History Department and Murray Tremellen in History of Art, which will investigate the history of these buildings from 1600 up to the great fire of 1834. Although these PhDs are separate from the original St. Stephen's project, we have been working closely with the original project team, and we are delighted to have been invited to revive this blog and build on the legacy of the original project.
Looking back on the St Stephen’s Project, there have been numerous high points during our four years of research. A lasting memory will be the day in June 2015 when we brought the sacred music of Nicholas Ludford back to the site of St Stephen’s Chapel for the first time since the Reformation, sung by the choir of Gonville and Caius College Cambridge. Thanks to a grant from the University of York’s Strategic Initiative Fund, we were able to employ a professional film crew to record this unique event. Watch and listen here.
“It is my object, as an architect”, Charles Barry told MPs considering the decoration of the New Houses of Parliament in 1841, “to give the most striking effect to the building as a whole, and I think that the effect of architecture can in no way be so highly enhanced as by the arts of painting and sculpture”.
In this month's blog post, Jennifer Caddick of the University of York explores the use of the medieval Place of Westminster's Painted Chamber as the meeting place for parliaments. How did its lavishly decorated walls inspire and inform proceedings?
In this month’s blog post, Dr Mark Collins, Archivist and Historian of the Parliamentary Estates Directorate, explores recent archaeological discoveries at the Palace of Westminster. Excavations by Museum of London Archaeology in Black Rod’s garden uncover evidence for the Tudor riverfront of the medieval palace, timber posts and fragments of high-status encaustic tile.
In this month’s blog post, our Project’s Ph.D. Student Researcher, Elizabeth Biggs, opens a fascinating window into the House of Commons, from archival sources uncovered in the Huntington Library, California. The story is one of the vicissitudes of sixteenth century fashion, the suggestive power of institutional memory and the precedents for galleries inside the Commons Chamber itself.
James Ford of the University of Nottingham examines the continuing significance of one of the 'Building of Britain' murals in St Stephen's Hall. Thomas Monnington's monumental commemoration of the 1707 Act of Union provoked differing responses when unveiled, and its subject still resonates in current debate on the nature, and future, of the Union itself.